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Published March 30, 2017

5 Best Soup Dumpling Restaurants in Shanghai

By Dan Entwistle


If you clicked on this post expecting to read a list of high-end hotels, or restaurants that charge RMB100+ for a basket of caviar-infused xiaolongbao that pair well with a sommelier-recommended champagne over Sunday brunch, get out.


The restaurants on this list are dirty, cheap, crowded little holes-in-the-wall with staff who’ll gladly tell you to go f*ck yourself if you even think about inconveniencing them in anyway. They also happen to contain Shanghai’s tastiest xiaolongbao.

 

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5. Wan Shou Zhai (万寿斋)

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You can find this little hovel up in Hongkou, around a 15-minute walk away from any of the surrounding subway stations.


If you come during any normal mealtime you’ll find a huge queue spilling out of the front door and onto the street. Once you finally get in, you’ll have to order your dumplings (¥7 for 8 xiaolong) and then angrily glare at people as you stand next to their table, urging them to eat up and get lost so you can take their seat.
 

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The xiaolongbao here are small, with a thin, light skin. Inside you’ll find flavorful pork, undisturbed by vegetables, ginger or other nonsense. Order two portions per person if you’re just there for the dumplings - 8 just isn’t enough.

Eat them here: 123 Shanyin Road - near Jixiang Road (山阳路123号 - 近吉祥路)

 

4. Xiyuan – Wuxi Xiaolong Restaurant (锡缘无锡小笼馆)

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Xiyuan is a few minutes walk away from North Sichuan Road station (Line 10), on a narrow street that bus drivers seem to think is a great place to just park-up and disrupt traffic.


Again, this place is pretty popular with locals so don’t be surprised if you have to wait a while for a table. The staff here are also a lot friendlier to customers – although that may just have been because I was white guy who spoke to them in Chinese. You know the drill – “Ni hao” followed by “wow your Chinese is almost as impressive as our lord and savior, Mao Zedong’s”.
 

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Anyway, the dumplings here are monstrous. For ¥20 you get a basket of some of the biggest xiaolong we’ve seen in Shanghai. Being the Wuxi variety, these dumplings are fairly sweet, with the old-lady who made them revealing that she adds soy sauce, ginger and sugar to the pork mixture. Our only complaint about these is that there’s so much pork and soup in the dumpling that the already thick skin tends to break fairly easily when you try to pick them up. 

 
Order one portion between two – the size and sweetness can be a little overwhelming for a solo diner.



Eat them here: 64 Beihaining Road - near Zhapu Road (北海宁路64号 - 近乍浦路)
 


3. Jia Jia Tangbao (佳家汤包)

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Located a few minutes walk away from People’s Square station, Jia Jia is definitely the most central of our xiaolongbao picks.
 

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Again, Jia Jia is hugely popular with both foreigners and locals which means that if you go during lunch time you’re gonna have to wait, and possibly not even get the xiaolongbao you want.


While one of the smaller dumplings on this list, Jia Jia’s pork xiaolong are swollen with soup and pork whose taste evokes if you compressed an entire block of fatty hong shao rou into a ball. The key is the skin, which is silky enough to dissolve in your mouth yet tensile enough to contain the piping hot juice. And come the fall hairy crab season you'll see baskets of the crab roe and pork variety adorning every table in the house.


RMB13 will get you 12 dumplings pork dumplings - we'd go with one basket per person.


Eat them here: 90 Huanghe Road - near Fengyang Road (黄河路90号 - 近凤阳路)
 


2. Honored Guests Coming (Zunkelai -尊客来)

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You can find Zunkelai in a number of places around Shanghai, although our favorite is their Shanghai Stadium location. It’s a bit tricky to find and you actually go off the street and walk along the outside of the stadium wall until you find it.


On the inside, Zunkelai looks like your standard tangbao guan. There are pictures of the dishes on the wall and they’ve got an organized ordering system where you get given a number to help your server find you.


The dumplings are probably as close as you can get to Din Tai Fung texture-and-look-wise, without having to pay the Taiwanese chain’s extortionate price tag. For a basket of xiaolong here you’ll have to shell out ¥12 for 6.
 

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Zunkelai’s dumplings have a rice-paper thin skin that manages to easily hold masses of soup and pork without breaking.


We recommend starting out with one basket per person (¥12 for 6 xiaolong) as you won’t be able to get enough of these little bags of culinary heroin.



Eat them here: 666 Tianyaoqiao Road Stadium store 68  - near stairwell number 5 (天钥桥666号体育场68轴 - 近万体场5号扶梯)

 

1. Fuchun Xiaolong (富春小笼)

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We’ve been in love with Fuchun Xiaolong since we first walked in the door three years ago. In recent years it’s become a little more mainstream, with the owners setting up several other, less impressive locations around Shanghai. It’s also been featured on a couple of international TV shows, including Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown”.


For us, Fuchun is exactly what a xiaolongbao should be – simple. There’re no vegetables; just pork, soup and a thick skin that allows you to pick up the dumpling without worrying that the contents are going spill out all over the place.
 

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The best location is the brand’s original restaurant on Yuyuan Lu, around a six minute walk from Jiangsu Road station (Line 2).


Fuchun is usually fairly busy so if you want to enjoy a sit-down meal we recommend skipping the line at the entrance and walking straight to the lesser-known upstairs part of the restaurant. Be warned, you’ll have to order other dishes along with your xiaolongbao if you want to get served up there.


One full basket of dumplings (12 xiaolong) at Fuchun will set you back ¥22, but in our opinion, it’ll be the best ¥22 you’ve ever spent in this city.



Eat them here: 650 Yuyuan Road - near Zhenning Road (愚园路650号近镇宁路)​​​​​​